June 16 (2014) There are moments of great political theater in our government bodies, and yesterday saw one of them. Rabbi Laurie Coskey of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice brought pie to Council. It was an all-American Apple pie. It was a pie to be split by the City Council, but she admonished them to leave a slice for Workers, who are not getting enough of the pie.
The day started with the announcement by Council President Todd Gloria that he was scaling back the wage increase proposal. It is no longer going to top off at $13.09\hour in 2017. Instead it will go up to $9.75 on January 1, 2015, then step up to $10.50 in 2016 and $11.50 by January 1, 2017. After that it will start to index with the Consumer Price Index on January 1, 2019. This proposal still keeps the five days of earned sick leave in place.
This far more modest proposal was still received with skepticism by some in the business community. Before the City Council Meeting there was an impromptu Press Conference at Civic Center.
Chris Duggan, Director of Government Affairs with the San Diego-California Restaurant Association. Duggan led the Press Conference and he started by pointing out that this was “a serious issue,” and wanted to address some of the concerns that small business have.
According to Duggan, the most serious concern they have at first glance is the raise in wages to start in 2019 tied to the Consumer Price Index. “When you tie these minimum wage increases to lagging economic indicators such as consumer price indexing it is very scary.”
There were other concerns brought by speakers to the Council. Among them was Sean Karafin of the San Diego Taxpayer Association, who asked how is the city planning to pay for this. He referred to the City 2015 proposed budget, where he told the Council it is costing over a million dollars to run the Living Wage ordinance. A quick check of the budget finds us this quote:
The Fiscal Year 2015 Proposed Budget includes the addition of 7.00 FTE positions, $770,307 in associated personnel expenditures, $11,500 in non-personnel expenditures, and $590,000 in partially offsetting revenue to support the Equal Opportunity Contracting Prevailing Wage Ordinance.”
Lia Smith of the Home Health Care Providers was present as well, and she raised the issues that this will bring to her clients, and many like her. Her clients are senior citizens on a fixed income and will not be able to afford the higher cost.
Restaurant owners proposed a two tier wage scale where tipped employees would be on a different tier than non tipped employees. They continued to make the argument that tipped employees make upwards of sixteen dollars an hour, at times more, due to tips. California does not run the Federal Fair Labor standard, where the pay for a tipped employee is $2.13\hour and has remained such since the 1980s. California, as Council President Gloria reminded the audience, does not use tips as a basis for wages.
One of the speakers came from Del Mar. He is not a voter in San Diego, but realizes that an increase in San Diego City will ultimately affect him, as those wage increases will come to his town as well. He begged the Council to consider those effects.
Mark Arabo of the Neighborhood Market Association said that this was a better proposal, but that he would like exceptions to this for small businesses.
Those in favor of the raise pointed out that while this is less than they originally expected, this is a good thing. Robert Northoff said that “obviously we liked $13.09 more, that had a more meaningful impact, but at the same time $11.50 is a step in the right direction.” He also emphasized that when you look at actual real world data after the implementation of wage increases is pennies on the dollar.
Francine Busby, Chair of the San Diego Democratic Party, said that this was not just an issue for Democrats, but an issue for everybody in San Diego. This should not be a partisan issue, and that this would benefit workers in San Diego.
We also had one person testify to the Board. She is homeless, and cannot get a second minimum wage job, because she is also a mother. She needs to take care of her children.
Another, Maria Garduño, told the Council that she was recently widowed and that the wages she got working in the hotel industry were simply not enough. One of her sons is in College, but she works cleaning rooms. The tips she got were not enough to even be considered as part of her wages.
She told me that she worked for one of the local hotels, and as a Supervisor she made $9.50 an hour.
Mickey Kasparian President of UFCW Local 135 told the Council that he was not reprinting his workers, but those who did not have a voice. Those who needed a raise so they can have some dignity. He also pointed to Washington State, which enjoys the highest minimum wage in the country, and it’s economy is growing fairly fast.
Hugh Moore of the Green Party had an interesting proposal for the Council, mandate the current proposal, and put the higher wage one on the November Ballot. This way the voters will have a choice.
Before the vote was taken, Council Member Myrtle Cole pointed out that in reality we are not leading. San Francisco is talking $15.00 \hour, and the State of Washington has higher pay.
Council Member Mark Kersey asked for a full financial impact report, from the (Office of the Independent Budget Analysis) IBA, while Scott Sherman asked for the impacts on the savings from Proposition B, and whether that will open a can of worms with that.
Council Member Marti Emerald registered her support and emphasized she represents those who make these wages. While not much, “every bit counts.” It might not lift workers from poverty, but might allow a parent to spend some time with their children, and to get better food.
This is not the last vote on the issue. The full council vote, which was opposed by Kersey, Sherman and Lorie Zapf, moves the process forward for a full report from different city departments.